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Cleaners win
The Living Wage Campaign at University College London (UCL) has claimed victory after the university agreed to pay cleaners the London Living Wage. The living wage is meant to be introduced over the next two years. The UCL Living Wage Campaign was formed two years ago and is an alliance of cleaners, students, academics, and staff.

For years London universities have been paying low wages to their cleaners. To date, thanks to pressure from various groups and campaigns, all London universities except University College London have been forced to pay their cleaners above the minimum wage and raise pay to at least the London Living Wage. The Campaign at UCL has vowed not to disband until the London Living Wage is fully implemented and all low-paid staff are well organised.

Deportee deaths
Jimmy Mubenga has become the 14th person to die during forced deportation from the UK. Meanwhile the government has put off until 2011 the end to the holding of children in asylum detention centres like Campsfield and Yarl’s Wood, which have seen repeated hunger strikes. Both the introduction of fast-track deportation and detention centres are a result of the 2008 EU Return Directive.

Milton Keynes free speech fight
Workers rights activists have been prevented from leafletting in Milton Keynes town centre. After only a few minutes they were stopped and questioned by Community Support Officers and private security staff, asked for their names and addresses, and told that they had to move on.

The group, Northampton Solidarity Federation, who have members in Milton Keynes, say that the ban on any political activity in the area by CMK Shopping Centre shows that Milton Keynes city centre is not public space.  In a statement, they said:

“It seems that if you’re not a consumer, you’re not wanted.  Big business has effectively privatised our areas that should be public. If one worker can’t give another worker a leaflet about their rights, especially at this time of massive attacks on workers, without being moved on, it’s a worrying situation in terms of free speech.”

Workfare: quick interview
One of the new ideas from the government has been to suggest that the unemployed be made to do community work for their benefits, effectively £1 an hour. Aside from the obvious question about what happens to the people who already do those jobs, Catalyst spoke to a road-sweeper about other problems this crackpot scheme faces.

Catalyst: What’s your view on this idea?
RS: It’s insulting and degrading. It means the job is considered to be a punishment.
C: How well thought out is it as an idea?
RS: Well, anyone can push a broom, but can you do it all day? Can you sweep 65 roads a day? I worked with a  guy who swept for 25 years, this job cannot be done by anybody, or everybody.
C: How will this affect the existing workforce?
RS: We already have a problem with agency workers who have less motivation because they get less pay. How much worse will it be if you’re paid £1 an hour? There is no idea of taking the job seriously, it’s never going to be a career.
C: What do you have to say to people who think this is a good idea and anyone can do it?
RS: I thought it was a piece of piss and didn’t listen to start with. And if you don’t learn, you can’t finish the day. Aside from techniques and equipment there are all sorts of health and safety concerns. If they do this there will be fatalities.

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Solidarity Federation